Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution says, in part,
The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative. The very first amendment proposed (you can look it up) tried to change this:
After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
but this was never ratified. So we can be pretty sure that the Founders of this Republic wanted us to have one Representative for every 30,000 Americans.
Currently, however, we have 435 Congressmen, thanks to something called Public Law 62-5. I guess this was supposed to keep the number of Congressmen down to a reasonable number. Otherwise, with the current U.S. population around 300,000,000, we'd have 10,000 Congressmen running around. Think of it! Mark Russell once said something on like
every night 500,000 people in the District of Columbia go to bed without a Congressman. But if we had 10,000 Congressmen, you give yours (DC residents excepted) a booty call just about every night.
The current limit of 435 Congressmen also gives rise to some startling inequities. For example, according to the 2000 Census, the total population of the United States was 281,421,906. If we exclude the District of Columbia (population 572,059) since it has no Congressional representation, then there are 280,849,847 Americans and 435 representatives, so each member of Congress should represent 645,632 people. However, Wyoming (493,782) and Montana (902,195) each have only one representative. To put it another way, Cynthia Lummis only needs to attract half as many votes as Denny Rehberg to get elected, but each gets one vote in the House. So by moving from Wyola, Montana to Parkman, Wyoming (16 miles) you can effectively double the strength of your vote for Congress.
There is a lot more information about the inequities of the current system, and the sorry history of
Amendment the First, at thirty-thousand.org. I'd recommend downloading their pamphlet, Taking Back Our Republic, for more information.
One thing they didn't cover, though: the effect of all of these changes on the Electoral College. Each state gets N+2 electoral votes, where N is the number of representatives, plus the two members of the Senate allowed each state. That
+2, along with Public Law 62-5, weights the Electoral College heavily toward the smaller states. Since D.C. does have 3 votes in the Electoral College, each elector theoretically represents 281,421,906/538 = 523,098 voters. However, each state has a minimum of three electoral votes. So in Wyoming each elector represents 164,594 people. In Montana, it's 300,732 people, still substantially below the national average. It's likely (I haven't checked in detail) that the state with the most people/elector is California, where there are 33,871,648 people and 55 electors, or 615,848 people/elector. Put it this way: an elector in California represents four times as many people as one in Wyoming, but each has the same say in who's elected President.
Now, as anyone can tell you, most of the smaller states, population-wise, are in the west, and most of those states vote Republican, while many of the larger states tend to vote Democratic. Another wrinkle in the system is that most states (Maine and Nebraska excepted) cast their electoral votes in a block.
Couple these two facts with the 30,000 people/representative rule and you get some interesting results. Very interesting, in some cases.
In particular, let's consider the 2000 Presidential Election. Very close, as we all recall. Al Gore got 50,999,897 votes, while George Bush got 50,456,002, but because most states cast their electoral votes as a block, Bush won in the Electoral College, where it counts, 271-266.
What if we'd apportioned Congress the way the Founders intended? And kept the current winner-take-all (mostly) electoral system? The table below shows the results. I constructed it using the following rules:
- Winner take all in each state, as now. Maine (42 votes under these rules) went to Gore, and Nebraska (54) went to Bush. Changing all of Maine's votes to Bush or all of Nebraska's to Gore isn't going to change the final result, so it doesn't matter if several congressional districts shifted from Red to Blue or vice versa.
- To get the number of representatives, I took the states' populations from the 1990 census, which governed apportionment at the time, divided by 30,000, and rounded down. Rounding to the nearest integer, or rounding up, can't change the electoral vote by more than 51, and so won't affect the result, either.
- If the District of Columbia was a state, it would have 22 electoral votes in this scheme. However, by the Twenty-Third Amendment, D.C. gets 17 electoral votes, equal to the state with the fewest, Wyoming. In the real 2000 election one D.C. elector abstained. Even assuming all 17 of the new electors abstained it wouldn't change the bottom line here, so I assume that they all voted — for Gore, naturally.
The result: Since each state has more or less the same representation per capita in the electoral college, and since most of the larger states went for Gore, he wins the election, 4,314–4,047.
Think about it. Al Gore, Forty-Third President of the United States. Somehow, I don't think that's what those currently saying we should go back to the Principles of the Founders had in mind.
Sorry about the lack of commas in the table above. I used a very primitive spreadsheet to generate the data.
1990 Census data is from http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lpa/census/1990/poptrd1.htm. Presidential vote totals are from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/showelection.php?year=2000.